Sleep Apnea: How can your dentist help?
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Did you know that more than 858,900 Canadian adults have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and more than one-quarter of Canadian adults have symptoms and risk factors that put them at risk of having sleep apnea? You may not realize, but your dentist can diagnose early signs of sleep apnea and help treat it.
Struggling with snoring and sleeplessness? Snoring and sleep disturbances are often signs of obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that causes people to stop breathing at different times throughout their sleep cycles. It can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur 30 or more times per hour. These pauses happen when the muscles in the back of the throat are flaccid, the tongue is too large, or the jaw is too small, causing airway obstructions and decreased oxygen intake.
The first sign of sleep apnea is often tooth grinding (also called bruxism). Dentists look for worn down tooth surfaces, a sign that a patient grinds their teeth. Grinding can cause tooth wear and breakage as well as inflamed and gum recession.
When you tense your jaw and grind your teeth, it sends a gasping for breath causes people to wake up repeatedly, which diminishes sleep quality and causes fatigue. Sleep apnea is linked to a higher risk of high blood pressure, hearth disease, diabetes, and obesity.
The Role Dentists Play in Sleep Apnea Treatment
Dentists are valuable partners to treat obstructive sleep apnea treatment. They can fabricate oral appliances to ease symptoms in patients of normal weight with mild to moderate sleep apnea.
Is a night guard enough? An over-the-counter night guard might not fix the problem by itself, and may even make sleep apnea worse. A custom-made guard can reduce grinding and help with sleep apnea.
Mandibular advancement devices are the most commonly used oral appliances. Dentists assess your teeth, mouth and temporomandibular joints to determine whether you are good candidate for this device. The appliance will push the lower jaw forward, preventing the airway muscles to collapse during apneas and therefore reduce or eliminate apneas. Some are adjustable, allowing users to alter the position where the jaw sits when they’re in place. They're affordable with few side effects and are custom made for an ideal fit.